In case I haven’t mentioned it enough, I’m an Army brat. What I haven’t told you yet is that I myself was in the Army, albeit briefly. I was recommended for medical discharge the last week of BCT thanks to a startling number of fractured and shattered bones. It took me a long time to understand why a dedicated Odhinnswoman glorybound for Valhalla would be denied her due as a soldier. Hindsight being what it is, I know now why things didn’t go according to plan. I am not destined for Valhalla. That is not my place. I know now how many gray hairs I gave Loki all these years, trying for that one way ticket to join the Einherjar. His claim on me has been longer than I realized, and shit, did I ever put him through some panicked paces.
Picture it. 2004. Ft Jackson, SC. A young girl, freshly graduated from college, newly accepted into the US Army Officer Candidate School. Our country was a year into war in the new world minted after 9/11. I saw this as my chance to go to the Sandbox, to die a warrior’s death, to find my place in Odhinn’s hall. It’s what I grew up with, it was a return to familiar surroundings. It’s where I thought I belonged.
Oh, how very wrong I was.
Long story short, I made it through BCT with a dramatic compression fracture in my L1 vertebra, several fractured ribs, a fractured pelvis, and two fractures in my left foot (on which I still hobble-ran my 9 mile morning PT before going to sick call). Oh, and pneumonia. And a run in with a back widow spider on my wrist during rifle qualifications.
Don’t get me started on the fire ants. Let’s just say I became adept at field stripping and cleaning my rifle with 73 bites on my left hand. Seventy-three. I counted.
You’d think I’d have realized someone was trying to fuck with my plans. But no, I’m stubborn as all fuck and kept going, because that’s what I do. It’s hilarious in retrospect, but I was pissed at the time.
Upon my return to civilian life, I was feeling a little lost. How could I best honor Odhinn if I couldn’t live and die as a warrior? After a few years, Ol’ One Eye told me, “Not everyone dies in a battle. Someone has to survive to care for the dead.”
So I became a funeral director.
It’s my pride and passion, the perfect blend of science and art, philosophy and theology. But in the morgue, embalming the dead, piecing together trauma, I found myself thinking of Loki more than Odhinn. Loki’s daughter is the Goddess of the Dead, after all. Hel is our ruler of the underworld. I spoke to Loki every time I trimmed the nails of the dead, telling him they weren’t meant for his ship so step off. I yelled at Himself whenever a jugular would break, flooding my dissection space with thick gouts of blood and rendering visibility useless. I chattered with him during the long, tedious task of suturing a scalp back into place on someone who’d been autopsied.
Never really spoke to Odhinn in the morgue. But I was an Odhinnswoman. I still yearned for Valhalla. I was a pro at ignoring the huffing coming from the Sly One. I was doing Odhinn’s work.
Last year, I had a medical issue that required abdominal surgery, so I took a leave of absence from mortuary work until I had healed enough to resume the intense physicality of the job. Then this year, I had another medical mishap, one that almost killed me, and emergency surgery was performed. Two major abdominal surgeries in less than a year. Needless to say, I’m still not strong enough to return to morgue work.
These medical setbacks are why I’m currently working a normal M-F job, which is why I finally got to attend ECT this year. And we all know what happened there.
Loki has finally gotten my attention. By Thorr’s beard, that twerp had to WORK for it, had to thwart so many foolish plans of mine, had to give me an extraordinarily stupid reason to get my ass to the ER so they could discover an issue that would have killed me had I waited just a little longer. It’s humbling, looking back at all of the choices I made and recognizing that all of the absurdity that derailed my plans was Loki’s doing. He’s saved my life, over and over. And over. (“You’re welcome,” he smirks.) Odhinn gave the gift of spirit, but Loki has kept me alive. And he’s kept me laughing along the way. Sometimes the mind-melting drifting-into-insanity kind of laugh, sometimes a sardonic “the fuck is this” chuckle, but a laugh is a laugh and it’s kept me going.
At this point, while I’m still dealing with poor physical health, I’m once again assessing my professional goals. While I look forward to the day I get to return to mortuary work, these last few months have taught me to stop basing my identity around my profession, to stop binding my service to the gods through my profession, and to start building my identity and service based on who I actually am and how I actually live.
I’m a soldier. I’m a mortician. I’m a daughter, a friend, a smart-ass. I’m a writer, and I’m a Ghostbusters fanatic. I’m a crazy cat lady, a VW geek, and a coffee addict. I dream, I hope, I love, and I make people laugh. I’m a Lokian. And I’m finally learning how to enjoy being alive.